D23's Time Machine: Celebrate Disneyland’s First Expansion That Opened In 1956
In 2015, Disney fans around the world began celebrating the diamond anniversary of Disneyland park and its original roster of attractions, from Jungle Cruise to Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. We can’t believe that now, almost a year later, we’re already commemorating the 60th anniversary of Disneyland’s first “expansion”—a lineup of all-new adventures that would transport guests into fascinating realms and even introduce the “D ticket!”
These new experiences—premiering less than a year after the park’s opening in July 1955—illustrated Walt Disney’s philosophy that Disneyland was something he could “keep developing, keep plussing and adding to”… a place where new adventures were always on the horizon.
So join us as D23 takes a look way back at the park attractions that opened 60 years ago—in 1956!
Storybook Land Canal Boats
In June 1956, Storybook Land Canal Boats replaced Canal Boats of the World, a Fantasyland attraction that offered very little in the way of scenery during its two-month run in 1955. Now, guests could cruise past charming miniature scenes from Disney animated films in an excursion that still enchants passengers today. And fun fact: At one time, Imagineers planned for the addition of an impressive “Rock Candy Mountain” as part of the voyage. Once inside the mountain, guests would have found themselves transported to the land of Oz, where they awaited a birthday party for Dorothy! (For those of you with confused looks, at the time the Disney Studio owned the rights to many of the Oz books by L. Frank Baum.)
Rainbow Caverns Mine Train
Guests could first travel through Frontierland’s spectacular caverns holding colorful pools, waterfalls, and geysers on July 2, 1956. During the attraction’s development, scientific expert and consultant Heinz Haber reportedly told Imagineer Claude Coats that the colorful water effects could never work. Walt brought Claude up to the challenge by saying what’s now considered one of his most famous quotes: “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” With inspiration from the True-Life Adventure films, Rainbow Caverns Mine Train would later transform into the elaborate Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland, and it would ultimately inspire scenes in the next mine train adventure: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
Tom Sawyer Island Rafts
Although adventurers could cruise the Rivers of America via an authentic steam-powered sternwheeler in 1955, it wasn’t until June 16, 1956 that they could board a raft to explore Tom Sawyer Island. Inspiring later versions at Walt Disney World and Tokyo Disneyland, the original attraction featured such highlights as Fort Wilderness, the Suspension Ridge, Merry-Go-Round Rock, and even river fishin’—all inspired by the pages of Mark Twain’s classic novel. During the attraction’s dedication ceremonies, Missouri Governor Phil Donnelly requested California Governor Goodwin Knight to “take appropriate action which [would] cause the Tom Sawyer Island. . . to be deeded to the Sovereign State of Missouri—the only true and rightful possessor of any and all Tom Sawyer Islands in the world.” (To our knowledge, no action was ever taken by the State of California to de-annex this part of Anaheim.)
Indian War Canoes
Another original “D ticket” experience, the Indian War Canoes offered guests an additional means of exploring the picaresque Rivers of America starting July 4, 1956. Several years later, in 1971, the attraction was renamed Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes and was eventually reclassified as a Bear Country (now Critter Country) attraction. The canoes took their place in Disneyland history as the first attraction in which guests had to do all the work!
Although it didn’t receive the upgrade to “D ticket” status, the Astro-Jets added a sense of kinetic wonderment to the heart of Tomorrowland when it opened on March 24, 1956. Guests could make their jets rise and lower, a concept that carried on in later incarnations of the attraction: Tomorrowland Jets (1964–1966), Rocket Jets(1967–1997), and Astro Orbitor (1998–present). As Disney fans well know, the attraction has inspired other versions at Disney parks around the globe, including the League of Planets Astro Orbiter at Walt Disney World and the all-new Jet Packs at Shanghai Disneyland!
Another bygone, but certainly not forgotten, attraction to join Disneyland in 1956 was the Skyway, which offered spectacular views on an aerial journey between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. Although the Skyway was not originally classified as a “D ticket” experience, it was upgraded to that level by June 1959, when the new “E ticket” was added. It was at that time that Matterhorn Bobsleds premiered and offered Skyway passengers an even more spectacular journey—past alpine passes and icy caverns, right through the mountain.
…and even more adventures!
Even more new experiences awaited guests in 1956. The iconic Omnibus first traveled down Main Street, U.S.A. and was added to the ticket books as an “A coupon” attraction. From February 19 until September 7, professor and wild animal trainer George Keller showed off fantastic felines in Keller’s Jungle Killers, after the Mickey Mouse Circus came to a close. And on July 23, Junior Autopia opened in Fantasyland. Tailored to youngsters, the attraction was destined for a short run; it would only last until December.
Do you have memories of these beloved attractions past and present?
Banner Photo Credit: Disney